There is no doubt that our modern lives are riddled with constant distractions. In moments that once presented the opportunity for reflection and quiet presence, many of us are distracted. We are more likely to pick up our phone, browse the internet or scroll through social media. A recent study in PLOS One found that the average young adult checks his or her smartphone every 11 minutes. It also found that we spend more than five hours (30 percent of the day) interacting with our phones.
There’s nothing wrong with any of these activities, of course. The problem happens when they collectively replace all our alone time. Without distraction, it can have consequences we aren’t even aware of.
In the last few years, I noticed that something began to feel off. While running a digital company and beginning this journey as a blogger, my external world seemed more in focus. Once spiritually and mindfully purposed, I had lost sight of the benefits of being fully present. It wasn’t until I began meditate. Immediately, I noticed a huge improvement in my quality of life. By reintroducing mindfulness mediation into my daily routine I slowly began to lessen those drivers of distraction. For me those drivers of distractions were fears, judgments and feelings.
In my mid twenties, I studied Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, a pioneer in mindfulness mediation, graduate of MIT, creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts and author of Wherever you go, There You Are. In a recent article Jon explains “We’re actually imprisoned by what we’re unconscious of. Not a moment goes by in which we don’t like this rather than that or want this more than that. Mindfulness is awareness that arises from paying attention on purpose in the present moment, non-judgmentally, so you begin to notice how insanely judgmental we are.”
A large body of evidence has shown that practicing mindfulness, even for a short time, increases positive emotions. It also helps us tune out distractions and improve our ability to focus. Mindfulness enhances our relationships, makes us feel more connected and relaxed, and boosts our compassion for ourselves and others. There is also a wealth of broad research into the health benefits of mindfulness mediation. Benefits such as pain management, reduction in anxiety and depression, improved blood sugar control, increased focus, reduced cellular aging, healthier pregnancies, improved sleep and overall improved immunity.
How do we practice mindfulness and mindfulness meditation?
Mindfulness is available to us in every moment. It can be as simple as mindful moment practices, like taking time to pause and breathe when the phone rings instead of rushing to answer it. We can all practice mindfulness at any time but how do we practice mindful meditation?
The basics of mindfulness practice are simple.
1. Set aside some time. You don’t need a fancy cushion, or any special equipment’s, all you need is time and space.
2. Pay attention to the present moment. The goal of mindfulness isn’t to quiet the mind but rather to pay attention and be present in the moment. Easier said than done.
3. Let your judgments roll by. When thoughts and judgments come into your mind, you can make a note and then pass them along.
4. Return back to being in the present moment. Often times your mind can get carried away with all your thoughts and distractions. That is why mindfulness is about coming back to the present moment again and again.
5. Be kind to your wandering mind. Don’t judge yourself for whatever thoughts pop up in your head. Practice recognizing when your thoughts begin to wander and gently pull yourself back to the present.
There are some really great apps that can literally guide through the mediation. I recommend Headspace. I’ve also heard really good things about the app 10% Happier and Insight Timer. There’s also a free 8 week mindfulness course available at the Palouse Mindfulness. It seems to follow Jon Kabat-Zinn’s (not free) course.
Mindfulness is a skill anyone can learn. You need to be willing to look deeply at your present moments. Practice being in a spirit of generosity, kindness toward oneself, and an openness toward what might be possible.
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